Sipping a Vieux Carre at the Royalton’s Forty-Four Bar
We’re in the early stages of summer roof bar season, but no one would call most of New York’s recent nights balmy or sweet. So this week we offer a weather haven, a hotel bar where you can order a drink with a dash of glam and forget the gloom swirling around outdoors.
The above requirements mean dim lighting, no windows, dark woods and a muted palette, preferably blue to match the weather-inflicted mood. Since that describes the Royalton to a T, we headed to West 44th Street. Our advice: if you want to be able to hear your companion, arrive early. By 8 pm the place assumes its nighttime guise as a hotel lobby doubling as a nightclub. But at 6:30 on a rainy holiday Monday evening, we had our pick of the cushy leather club chairs and wound up a few tables away from an amorous couple on a sofa, a pre-theater couple photographing each other and a lone Fleet Week sailor checking his iPhone.
Royalton’s Brasserie 44 restaurant closed last summer and reopened in October as Forty-Four, a bar with small-plate nibbles, following a subtle renovation, the addition of a second bar and a major menu overhaul (slimmed down food, souped up drinks). The result is arguably the biggest hotel bar in town, encompassing nearly everything on the ground floor except the check-in desk.
New on the drinks menu were organic ingredients and boutique brews, the hallmark of a curated bar, and punch. Since you need a crowd, or a bank-loan, for the latter – the Blue Mountain with 21-year-old Jamaican rum, organic lime juice and a dusting of Jamaican Blue coffee costs $495 – we opted for individual drinks.
The Vieux Carre ($14) caught our eye – rye, whiskey, VSOP Cognac, Carpano and Antica Formula with Angustura and Peychaud’s bitters and a Benedictine rinse on the glass. A gorgeous amber brew, it arrived in an Old-Fashioned glass cooled by one large ice cube. Its complex taste matched its exquisite looks and Tennessee Williams/New Orleans vibe — a moody potable until summer’s promised arrival.
I like the redesign of the lobby, bar and restaurant at the Royalton. Still plenty of places to sit, but the chairs and sofas are simpler, more sturdy and more leather, it seems. . . . The Vieux Carre sounds like a real drink that some thought went into, as well as the booze.
Thanks, John. I was sad to see the old Philippe Starck lobby go, but the new one feels like 2011 — and beyond.